It's important to understand that, under the law, you can be held responsible even for unintentional acts that flow directly from an intentional criminal action.
Two men arrested in the small town of East Liverpool, Ohio, are learning that the hard way as they wait to find out exactly what charges they'll eventually face after getting caught with either fentanyl or carfentanyl, both extremely powerful synthetic opioids that can kill with even tiny amounts of exposure.
It's generally expected that at least one charge they'll face is that of a felony assault on a police officer -- who nearly died after accidentally touching the drugs with his bare hand for a fraction of a second.
Ohio is in an opioid epidemic that has police officers in big cities and small towns alike taking similar precautions when handling drugs that might contain either fentanyl or carfentanyl, both of which are cut into heroin to deliver a cheap but powerful high. Officers don't start collecting evidence until they cover their mouths and noses with face masks. They don surgical gloves. They're careful what they touch.
The injured officer was no exception. He followed protocol when he was called to the scene of a traffic stop that had turned into a drug bust. Later, however, a coworker mentioned that there was something on his shirt and he instinctively reached up and brushed that "something" away with his bare hand.
That fraction of a second of contact with his bare skin was all it took to deliver an overdose that dropped him to the floor, unable to even speak. He was lucky that the paramedics were already present, and they were able to save his life with a dose of Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of an overdose.
Officials are quick to point out that it could have been much worse. Had the officer been alone, he would have died. Had he gone home with the powder on his shirt, he could have transferred it to his wife or child through a hug, killing one of them. Any number of people could have been injured through the accidental exposure.
If you've been involved in a drug crime that had unintended consequences, including the overdose or death of another, you need legal representation immediately. Contact an attorney for help.
Source: Vice news, "Cop Overdosed Touching Drugs After Traffic Stop," Keegan Hamilton, May 16, 2017